World Cup hosts Qatar prematurely exit their own party on Tuesday, completing their campaign with a tough assignment against the Netherlands at the Al Bayt Stadium that leaves them facing the prospect of further humiliation.
The horror performance of the home side has come as a major disappointment as, despite years of intense preparation, they have been thoroughly underwhelming in their opening two Group A games. They were the first country eliminated on Friday, less than a week into the tournament, after losing 3-1 to Senegal.
That followed a 2-0 defeat by Ecuador in the tournament’s opening game last Sunday where the Qataris, the Asian champions, blamed stage fright for their poor showing.
But they was no visible improvement in their second game as they meekly fell out of contention and unless there is a considerable change, there could be an even more one-sided contest against the Netherlands and a horrid ending to their participation.
Qatar are the second host nation, after South Africa, to fail to get out of the group stages but may draw some inspiration from the 2010 hosts, who did upset France in their last group game 12 years ago.
The Dutch were always fancied to finish top of Group A in Qatar and could still do so but have not yet matched the bold predictions of coach Louis van Gaal, who has been repeatedly insisting they can go all the way to the final.
They needed two late goals to beat Senegal in their opening match last Monday and although they scored early in their next game against Ecuador, were outplayed and fortunate to share the spoils.
Four points, though, has the Dutch level at the top of group standings with Ecuador, with Senegal one point behind. A win for the Netherlands over Qatar puts them through as Ecuador and Senegal compete their first-round programme at the same time.
Van Gaal is expected to start Memphis Depay for the first time in the tournament and look for a much-improved performance from his lead attacker. A hamstring problem meant a two-month absence and he has been given time to build up his fitness by Van Gaal with second half appearances in the previous two games.
The veteran coach is expected to also tweak his midfield, overrun at times by what captain Virgil van Dijk called “Ecuador pitbulls”.
“We could have also played that way, we have players who can do a similar thing. But it’s not in our game or the way we play,” said Van Dijk after Friday’s 1-1 draw.
“We want to have the ball and make the game. We also have the footballers to do it that way. Excellent footballers even. We just have to show that here,” added the skipper.